Swedish Meatball Pasta Bake

This is the kind of comfort food dish that you make on the weekend.

Think Swedish meatballs meets a casserole and that’s what we’ve got going on here today. Nifty, right? I tend to prefer casseroles in the winter time. Maybe it’s because they tend to be heavier and ideal for cold nights. Which means if you’re counting calories then save this recipe for a day when calories don’t count (like the weekend or on vacation 😉 ).

As a heads up, this recipe takes a bit of time to make, which is the real reason why I suggest making this on a weekend. It’s not difficult to make, but there a lot of steps. It took me way longer than I thought it would.

When I made this, it reminded me that I don’t like making meatballs. I find them kind of a pain to make. Does anyone else feel that way? The meatballs in these pictures are a little bigger than what the recipe calls for. I didn’t look at the package of beef that my husband picked up because I assumed it was the amount that I needed. My bad. The meatballs still came out great though.

My husband would have liked more pasta but I think that would ruin the integrity of this dish. I think that the ratio of carbs to sauce/gravy is key to a good casserole and it’s spot on here. Dry casseroles do not make for good eats.

While I did enjoy this meal, it’s not really something that I crave or gravitate towards. Give me a chicken rice soup or zucchini ravioli and I’m a happy camper. My husband ate all of the leftovers by eating it for several days in a row as lunch, so kudos to him for taking one for the team because this recipe made a lot of food.

Swedish Meatball Pasta Bake Recipe
(Makes about 6 servings)

Note: This recipe requires 30 minutes of chilling time.

Ingredients for the Meatballs:

  • 1 and 1/4 cups plain panko bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pound ground beef (I used 85/15.)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3 tablespoons oil

Ingredients for the Pasta:

  • 2 cups shell pasta

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups beef broth (I used low sodium, equivalent to a 32 ounce box.)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce * (See Note below.)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon salt * (See Note below.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

*Note: My husband likes this recipe as is. However, I prefer less salt and Worcestershire flavor and would reduce these amounts in half. Therefore I recommend that you start with less salt and Worcestershire, taste the sauce, and add more to your liking if needed.

Directions for the Meatballs:

  1. Add the panko bread crumbs to a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.
  3. Add the finely chopped onion, salt, pepper, allspice, and nutmeg and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir often.
  4. Add the minced garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Turn the heat down to low/medium, and add the milk. Stir everything together and bring it to a simmer.
  6. Once the onion mixture has come to a simmer, pour it from the pan into the bowl of panko bread crumbs and stir everything together. The mixture will be very thick. Set this bowl aside to cool.
  7. In a separate extra large bowl, add the eggs and beat them.
  8. Then add the ground beef, ground pork, and cooled onion mixture. Mix everything together. (It’s gross, but it’s easiest and quickest to do using your hands.)
  9. Form about 30 balls and then chill them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  10. Once the meatballs are done chilling, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat up the oil.
  11. Add the meatballs to the skillet in batches and cook them until they are browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Batches made it so the pan wasn’t over crowded which made flipping them and seeing when they were done easier.
  12. Transfer the meatballs to a dish and set them aside.

Directions for the Pasta:

  1. Cook the pasta al dente according to the directions on the box, drain it and add it to a 9 x 13 oven safe baking dish.

Directions for the Sauce and Assembly:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (This is not part of the sauce steps but you’ll want the oven preheated by the time you are done with these steps.)
  2. Place the meatballs into the baking dish, nestling them into the pasta.
  3. In a large skillet on medium heat, melt the butter.
  4. Add the flour, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the beef broth, water, Worcestershire, salt and pepper and bring it to a simmer. Stir often.
  6. Reduce the heat to low/medium, and add the parsley and heavy cream. Stir everything together constantly and cook it until it thickens, about 10 minutes.
  7. Carefully pour the sauce over the meatballs and pasta.
  8. Bake the Swedish meatballs, pasta, and sauce in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Slightly adapted from: The Beach House Kitchen

Comments

  1. Rachael says:

    Hope it tastes better than it looks. My sauce never thickened, it’s very…VERY soupy.

    1. Melissa Lewis says:

      My sauce was thin too. I used egg noodles. It seems to have thickened with the baking!

  2. Carla says:

    I made this 2 nights ago and had the leftovers today for lunch and it was so delicious. I even think I liked it better leftovers. My husband NEVER EVER eat leftovers and he had seconds. This is a keeper!

    And, yes it thicken up as it bakes. ❤️

    1. Tina says:

      That is awesome to hear! Thank you so much for sharing!

    2. Nora says:

      I also find making meatballs a pain. When hamburger is on sale I buy a large quantity and spend my morning rolling meatballs. I make a variety and put on cookie sheet in the freezer when frozen I bag up put back in freezer. Makes for a quick dinner.

      1. Tina says:

        Great tip!!

  3. Emily says:

    If I want to freeze this dish, at what point should I do that? Before baking?

    1. Tina says:

      Emily, yes, I would freeze before baking.

  4. Cristina says:

    I did not have any issues with the sauce thickening…however, the meatball mixture was very soft…there was really no rolling into balls…I just spooned them into the skillet… And, my family did not like the texture of the meatballs…while they were done/cooked and well browned on the outside…the inside texture was very soft/mushy. I feel like the 2/3 C of milk was too much liquid.

    1. Sherie Lea says:

      Great meatballs as long as you follow the recipes. I had no problems and it was a great dish! Thank you

      1. Tina says:

        I’m so glad that you like this dish! 🙂

    2. Tina says:

      Hi Cristina. It sounds like you made the meatballs correctly because this kind of meatball is tender.

    3. Joyce says:

      My meatballs were perfect. They held the share and cooked evenly. I air fryed them for 12 minutes.

  5. Holly says:

    This was a tasty change of pace for our household. However, it seemed like it took nearly two hours from start to finish. It’s definitely not something I could make during the work week. I suggest putting in some time saving suggestions in order to make cooking go faster.

    1. Mandy says:

      We did it with frozen meatballs. Cuts way down on prep time and can definitely be a weeknight meal with this substitution.

      1. Leah Ann Engle says:

        that is what I was thinking. I always have frozen ones in my freezer.

  6. Ashley Simmons says:

    Very good, lots of compliments, going back for seconds and husband said this was a keeper! I had family staying with us so made 1-1/2 this recipe adding an extra pound of lean beef. I didn’t have beef broth so used beef bullion. With that and my butter being salted I took your suggestion and scaled back on salt and Worcestershire sauce. Thanks!

  7. Jillian says:

    I doubled the meatball ingredients (since that was the biggest pain to make) and froze the other half. My sauce turned out perfect consistency per following the exact recipe. This was DELICIOUS!!!!! My kids loved it and I will DEFINITELY make again!

    1. Tina says:

      Yay! 🙂

      1. Stephani says:

        I cut back on the milk, and baked the meatballs in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.
        They weren’t quit as tender, but my family likes a meat ball with a little chew to it.
        Because of the more dense meatball, I didn’t chill, I just baked. Cut back on the time tremendously. I also added about 2 heaping tsp of beef base and did reduce the salt. I added 1 heaping spoonful of red current jam, swedish meatballs have to have jam. It was really good.

        I served with large slices of toasted crusty bread, lingonberry preserves and a brussel sprout salad.
        Great recipe, thank you.

        1. Tina says:

          Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

  8. Lorna Andrejewskik says:

    I am a pescatarian and do not like beef. Do you think Impossible Burger ground “meat” would work in it’s place?
    My husband loves Swedish meatballs and I haven’t made them in years. I would love to try this.

    1. Tina says:

      I have not cooked with impossible burger ground “meat” so I’m not sure. If you end up trying it, I’d love to know how you make out.

  9. Lori says:

    About to pop in the oven, looks delicious! I’ll let you know how my 3 teenage boys like it:)

    1. Tina says:

      Lori, I hope your boys loved it!

  10. Vickie says:

    Yummy yummy yummy. But I cheated I used frozen meatballs. This is now in our rotation of meals my picky eater husband loves. So glad I found this recipe.

  11. Sara A Wickum says:

    I thought this casserole was good…the only thing I would have done different was to double the sauce.

    1. Tina says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Sara!

  12. Kelli says:

    If I use frozen meatballs, do I need to cook or warm them before or just place the frozen with the shells in the casserole pan?

    1. Tina says:

      Kelli, I have not tried cooking it with frozen meatballs, but I think either approach would work, however, you will likely need more cooking time if the meatballs are frozen.

      1. Joy says:

        I always use frozen and just place them among the noodles!

        1. Tina says:

          Awesome! Thanks for the information, Joy!

        2. Carey says:

          thank you for this!

  13. Nancy says:

    A lot of work and a waste of time & ingredients. The sauce did not thicken @ had no taste!

  14. Liam says:

    I cooked it and we all thought it was delicious. Thank you

    1. Tina says:

      Wonderful!

  15. Lori says:

    To save time I combined all the meatball ingredients (omitted the butter completely) in a large bowl. I rolled into balls and baked them on a sheet pan for 15 minutes or so. Great flavor!

    1. Tina says:

      Wonderful! Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

  16. Heather B says:

    This was really good! I used frozen meatballs bc I have a 2 year old and homemade wouldn’t happen lol. Since I used frozen I omitted the water assuming the meatball would give off some once thawed and the consistency was perfect! Will definitely make this again! Kid approved 🤗

    1. Tina says:

      Wonderful!

  17. David Mehrhof says:

    Awesome!

  18. Kris says:

    Are there any parts of this recipe that I can do the day before?

    1. Jeanette says:

      I haven’t made this recipe myself, but I would imagine making the meatballs the day before should be fine. Either just the mixture and rolling them into balls in an airtight container in the fridge raw and ready to cook next day, or cook the meatballs and that’s one less thing to worry about the next day.

  19. Debby says:

    I made this casserole for a party. My sauce remained very soupy and when I poured it in the casserole over the pasta and meatballs, it seemed like it wasn’t enough, ie too dry. So, I whipped up more white sauce and added that to it. I took it to the party hoping it would taste good. Well, it was a hit. My casserole dish went home empty and I’ve had requests for the recipe!

  20. LaurenBee says:

    Followed the recipe exactly and it turned out like literal soup.

  21. Brenda says:

    Followed the directions exactly and it’s one of my favorite meals. Does take some time but worth it. Sauce turned out creamy, everything very flavorful!

    1. Tina says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Brenda!

  22. Lynn says:

    Made this tonite for our Christmas Eve dinner. Swedish meatballs are traditional and I wanted to try a new spin! My guys and I loved it, and they requested that I make again. Couple of comments: I love Worcestershire and there wasn’t near enough flavor in the sauce. I ended up putting in 2T and salt to taste, plus a little liquid smoke. Two cups of shells (cooked or uncooked) weren’t enough, I used about half of a 16 oz box. And sooo many pans! I made the sauce in the pan that I used to cook the onion mix, and then the meatballs, which allowed me to scrape up all the bits on the bottom into the sauce. One mixing bowl for all of the meatball mix. A large scoop also helps make the meatball making easy, fast, and size is consistent.

  23. alexa green says:

    this was very good! i am a busy girl so instead of making my own meatballs i used swedish style frozen meatballs. i cooked the meatballs for a little less than the time on the package, used egg noodles and for the sauce i followed your directions except i used 1/4 cup whipping cream and half a can of cream of mushroom. it was delicious!

    1. Tina says:

      Thank you for stopping by!

  24. Neal Rouse says:

    I made this tonite for the family and they loved it. Only thing is next time I will double the sauce

    1. Tina says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Neal!

  25. Donna says:

    Can you make meatballs in the morning & refrigerate them to use later to save some time?

    1. Tina says:

      Hi Donna. Yes, I don’t see why not. (But I have not tried that.)

  26. Jenna says:

    This was such a fun and yummy dish! I’m glad I didn’t listen to any of the negative reviews. I used store-bought frozen meatballs so I eliminated the water from the sauce and subbed whole milk for the heavy cream because it’s all I had. The sauce thickened more with baking and came out rich, creamy, and delicious. I’ll be adding this to our meal rotation for sure. Thanks for a great recipe!

    1. Tina says:

      Wonderful! Thank you for stopping by!

  27. This dish took way too much time to make and way too many pans! The sauce was flavorless, soupy and I followed the recipe exactly as written. Disappointed!

    1. Tina says:

      I appreciate you stopping by.

  28. Jessica Smith says:

    Had my 13 year old follow the recipe to make dinner. We used frozen meatballs and nestled them into the cooked pasta without pre cooking and they came out great from the oven. The sauce thickened up beautifully before even going over the pasta. Just stir and keep it low for the full 10 minutes. We paired it with a Caesar salad and the whole family loved it. Toddlers asked for seconds.

    1. Tina says:

      Jessica, what a great start to my week! I am so happy to hear that you loved this recipe like we do and I love the short cut that you and others have made with the meatballs. Yay for being toddler approved. 🙂

  29. Liz says:

    This looks amazing! I’m with you though about making meatballs. Likely I’ll grab a store bought bag but file the rest of the recipe. For others who hate making meatballs, IKEA and BJs both sell pretty quality Swedish meatballs. But the rest of this looks so good. Lingdonberrys on top too for sure

  30. Grace says:

    This was delicious! My husband and so both had seconds. Followed exact recipe, and turned out amazing – I will be making it again, than you!

    1. Tina says:

      Grace, I am so happy to hear that you and your husband love this recipe! Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂

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